The Cayman Islands has released a shipping notice outlining the investigation thus far into exactly what happened on board Fincantieri’s 140m Ocean Victory (though the flag’s notice describes the yacht as 124m) that led to the death of the superyacht’s third officer in March 2016.

The notice, which can be downloaded here, begins by explaining that the third officer and a deckhand were assigned to the superyacht’s forward mooring station to anchor the vessel, on command of the captain, and that communication was established between the mooring station and bridge by radio, and the captain was able to observe activity in the mooring station via the vessel’s CCTV system.

The third officer was in control of the paying out of the anchor chain with the windlass brake, while the deckhand monitored the orientation of the chain in the water. With four shackles in the water, the chain was stopped, following which the captain requested a total of five shackles in the water, at which point the third officer continued paying out the anchor chain.

It was then that the windlass brake failed “catastrophically” (a word chosen by flag). “The chain started to run out in an uncontrolled manner,” the notice explains. It then goes on to explain that when all nine shackles had run out, the bitter end failed and the loose end of the chain left the chain locker and struck the third officer, who suffered “extremely severe injuries from the force of being struck by the loose anchor chain”.

Unfortunately, as the industry well knows, the third officer died of his injuries, despite, as the notice states, “prompt and comprehensive medical treatment being administered by the on-board emergency response team”.

The mooring station. Courtesy of the Cayman Islands

The cause, or causes, of the failure of the windlass brake is still under investigation, but the Cayman Islands adds some safety advisories at the end of its notice.

Captain Malcolm Jacotine, however, contacted The Crew Report voicing a few concerns relating to elements of the incident.

“The aspect of the mooring deck is very interesting, as this arrangement, whereby the mooring party/operator is in front of the windlass with no open escape route, is not uncommon with the current trend of enclosed foredecks,” explains Captain Jacotine. “Are these arrangements inherently unsafe? And whose responsibility is it for approval, as there are many parties involved: designer, shipyard, class, flag and owner’s representative. I guess, ultimately, those involved can wash their hands of responsibility if something goes wrong, as they can blame it on the operational procedures being at fault. But if it is impossible to operate without standing in snap-back zones or having a suitable escape route, then who really bares legal responsibility?” (Jacotine does stress that his comments are meant as a general observation in regard to this type of foredeck design, and is not suggesting that it was a contributory factor in the Ocean Victory incident, and that we must wait for the final report from the flag to fully understand what happened and the lessons to be learnt.)

Brake failure. Courtesy of the Cayman Islands

Read our article on how the remaining crew are coping following the incident here.

We will wait for further information from the investigation before we address this in more detail. However we look forward to discussing the design aspects of safety at this month’s SuperyachtDESIGN Week. Not registered? Register here.